Margaret Trudeau

Margaret Joan Trudeau (née Sinclair, formerly Kemper; born September 10, 1948) is a Canadian author, actress, photographer, former television talk show hostess, and social advocate for people with bipolar disorder, with which she is diagnosed. She is the former wife of Pierre Trudeau, 15th prime minister of Canada; they divorced in 1984, during his final months in office. She is the mother of Justin Trudeau, the 23rd and current prime minister of Canada; the journalist and author Alexandre "Sacha" Trudeau;[1] and the deceased Michel Trudeau. She is the first woman in Canadian history to have been both the wife and the mother of prime ministers.

Margaret Trudeau
Margaret Trudeau bandana.jpg
Trudeau in 2014
Margaret Joan Sinclair

(1948-09-10) September 10, 1948 (age 73)
(m. 1971; div. 1984)

Fried Kemper
(m. 1984; div. 1999)
Children5; including Justin, Alexandre, and Michel Trudeau
Parent(s)James Sinclair
Kathleen Bernard

Early yearsEdit

Trudeau was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the daughter of Scottish-born James "Jimmy" Sinclair, a former Liberal member of the Parliament of Canada and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Doris Kathleen (Bernard) Sinclair.[2] Her grandmother, Rose Edith (Ivens) Bernard, with whom Trudeau had an especially-close relationship, lived in Roberts Creek, British Columbia, in later life, and was from Virden, Manitoba.[3] Her grandfather, Thomas Kirkpatrick Bernard, was born in Makassar, Dutch Celebes, now in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and immigrated in 1906 at age 15 with his family to Penticton, British Columbia, eventually working as a payroll clerk for Canadian Pacific Railway.[4]

The Bernards were the descendants of colonists in the Straits Settlements, the Dutch East Indies, and British Malaya, nowadays respectively Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, including Francis James Bernard, a London, England-born Anglo-Irishman whose great-grandfather, Arthur Bernard, was a member of the Irish House of Commons for Bandonbridge, and brother of Francis Bernard, Solicitor-General for Ireland, and ancestor of the Earls of Bandon.[5][6] Francis James Bernard was the founder of the Singapore Police Force in 1819, The Singapore Chronicle, the first newspaper in Singapore, was established with Bernard as owner, publisher, and editor in 1824[7] and he opened up Katong, now a densely populated-residential enclave, the first to cultivate a coconut estate there in 1823. Bernard married Margaret Trudeau's 3rd great-grandmother, Esther Farquhar, in 1818, the eldest daughter of Scotsman William Farquhar, a colonial leader in the founding of modern Singapore, by Farquhar's first wife, Antoinette "Nonio" Clement, daughter of a French father and an ethnic Malaccan mother.[8][9]

Another great-grandmother, Cornelia Louisa Intveld, married in 1822 to Royal Navy officer and merchant, William Purvis, from Dalgety Bay, Scotland, and a first cousin of American abolitionist Robert Purvis; a noted fine soprano and a beauty of her era.[10] Upon glimpsing her across the auditorium at the opera in London, England, British King William IV sent his equerry to invite her to his box. After she refused, the King sent the equerry back just to ask her name.[11] Intveld was born in Padang, present-day West Sumatra, Indonesia. At the time of Intveld's birth, Padang was in the territory of the Pagaruyung Kingdom, where her father, who came from humble beginnings in Hellevoetsluis, South Holland, rose up through the Dutch East India Company to become the Dutch Resident of Padang. Her maternal grandmother was an Ono Niha ranee (a term covering every rank from chieftain's daughter to princess) married a prominent Dutch colonial official and merchant.[12] Acclaimed British harpsichordist, Violet Gordon-Woodhouse, and Hawaiian settler, Edward William Purvis, according to popular belief, was the namesake of the ukulele, are Margaret Trudeau's first cousins, three times-removed.[11] Trudeau explored her mother's family's roots in Singapore during an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?.

Trudeau's family moved to a large house in Rockcliffe Park, Ontario, in 1952 after her father was appointed to the Cabinet, and she attended Rockcliffe Park Public School[13] although they returned to North Vancouver after he lost his re-election bid in 1958. She attended Hamilton Junior Secondary School and Delbrook Senior Secondary School in North Vancouver. Trudeau graduated in 1969 from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.[14]

Marriage to Pierre TrudeauEdit

As an 18-year-old vacationing in Tahiti with her family, Sinclair met Pierre Trudeau, who was then Minister of Justice. Sinclair did not recognize him, and she, in fact, thought little of their encounter, but Trudeau was captivated by the carefree "flower child", nearly thirty years younger than he was, and began to pursue her.

Pierre Trudeau was a bachelor before he became Prime Minister in 1968. They kept their romance private, so Canadians were shocked after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation led its morning radio broadcast[15] about Prime Minister Trudeau honeymooning at Alta Lake, British Columbia, at the foot of Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort[16][17] the day after a surprise wedding in North Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 4, 1971.[18] Although she had accompanied Pierre Trudeau in public a year before to ice skate and dance at an event at Rideau Hall, official residence of Canada's Governor General,[15] it was a complete secret except to immediate-family members and close friends that she was in a romantic relationship, then in a six-month engagement to the Prime Minister.[15][18]

As Pierre Trudeau was a Catholic, she converted to the Catholic Church for their marriage. She would, in later life, study Buddhism although she now considers herself an Anglican. Asked about her role in a marriage to the prime minister, Trudeau said, "I want to be more than a rose in my husband's lapel."

In 1971, the Trudeaus took a second honeymoon in the Caribbean to Barbados and an unidentified nearby island[19] then Tobago, then to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (including both Bequia and St. Vincent) with Pierre taking a side-trip to Trinidad while Margaret stayed in Tobago.[20]

After Pierre Trudeau's government's near defeat in 1972 where Margaret herself was very uninvolved in the campaign, she decided to become much more active for the 1974 federal election. At a rally in Vancouver, she told a crowd of 2,000 her husband taught her "a lot about loving." The remark was wildly mocked and dismissed in public during the campaign by members of the press gallery as well as by her husband's main political rivals Progressive Conservative Party of Canada leader Robert Stanfield and New Democratic Party leader David Lewis. Liberal party organizers considered her a top campaign asset, and sent her off alone to help local candidates in hotly contested ridings while critics noted, the wives of Stanfield and Lewis were on the campaign trail, they rarely spoke and stood behind their husbands at events. Political observers also found Pierre Trudeau noticeably more relaxed at events while Margaret came along. Initially, she brought her six-month-old son Sasha on the trail with her, and one veteran reporter said, "It's the first campaign plane for the first thing off is a crib and a diaper bag." Later, she left her sons with her parents in North Vancouver while campaigning. Asked at the time if she thought her campaigning was helping Pierre Trudeau pick up votes, she replied, "I won't know until July 8th. But 52 per cent of the voters in this country are awful lot ..."[21] Her husband's party returned to a majority-government.

Trudeau had difficulty adjusting to her new position. "From the day I became Mrs. Pierre Elliott Trudeau," she writes in her memoirs, "a glass panel was gently lowered into place around me, like a patient in a mental hospital no longer considered able to make decisions and cannot be exposed to a harsh light."[22] The couple had three children: Justin (born December 25, 1971), Alexandre (Sacha) (born December 25, 1973), and Michel (October 2, 1975 – November 13, 1998).

Margaret Trudeau (third from left) at the White House in 1977, with (from left) her husband Pierre, Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter

Although the couple initially appeared to have a very close and loving relationship, the marriage soon began to fall apart. Trudeau resented her husband's constant work-related absences, and was forced to raise her three young sons largely by herself. Beyond the normal extensive publicity her high-profile position brought, in a few instances, she headlined. Trudeau smuggled drugs in the prime minister's luggage, made scantily-clad appearances at Studio 54, and tore apart a quilt made by Canadian conceptual artist Joyce Wieland[23] on the wall in the prime-minister's official residence in Ottawa because it celebrated "reason over passion".[24] (Her husband's personal motto was "Reason before passion".)[25]

Over time, the marriage disintegrated[26] to the point, as recounted in her book, Trudeau had an affair with US Senator Ted Kennedy. She was also associated with members of the Rolling Stones, including Ronnie Wood[27] and, according to Keith Richards's autobiography, Life, Mick Jagger.[27][28]

She separated from her husband in 1977, and became a much-talked-about jet-setter.[29] She gave many "tell-all" interviews to Canadian and American magazines, and appeared in two motion pictures. Pierre Trudeau won custody of the children and did not pay any spousal support. Trudeau had a difficult time earning a living after her marriage. She wrote the book Beyond Reason about her marriage.

On the eve of the 1979 election, in which Pierre Trudeau's party lost the majority of seats in the House of Commons, she was seen dancing at Studio 54 nightclub in New York City. A photo of her at the disco was featured on many front pages across Canada.[30]

Divorce and second marriageEdit

Trudeau filed at the Ontario Supreme Court for a no-fault divorce on November 16, 1983,[31] one which was finalized on April 2, 1984. On April 18, 1984, in the chambers of Judge Hugh Poulin, with her three sons attending, she married, in a civil ceremony, Ottawa real-estate developer Fried Kemper, with whom she had two children: son Kyle (born 1984); and daughter Alicia (born 1988).[32][33][29]

Later lifeEdit

In November 1998, the Trudeaus' youngest son, Michel, an avid outdoorsman, was killed when an avalanche swept him to the bottom of British Columbia's Kokanee Lake. The loss of her son was devastating for Trudeau, and she suffered another major depressive episode that led to her second divorce.[34]

When Pierre Trudeau died in 2000, Margaret was at his bedside with their surviving sons Justin and Alexandre.[35] Speaking in 2010 about her marriage to Trudeau, she said: "Just because our marriage ended didn't mean the love stopped."[36]

On October 19, 2015, her eldest son, Justin Trudeau, led the Liberal Party to a majority government, becoming the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada. During the campaign, she was involved, but avoided campaigning in public as the Harper campaign's main attack line against Justin was "Just Not Ready" and feared they would suggest her son was "so unready he needs his mummy."[37]

On April 27, 2020, Trudeau was hospitalized with smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in her apartment building.[38]

Work, advocacy and writingEdit

Trudeau speaks at the University of the Fraser Valley in 2017.

From 2002 to 2017, Trudeau was the honorary president of WaterAid Canada, an Ottawa-based organization dedicated to helping the poorest communities in developing countries build sustainable water supply and sanitation services.[39][40] In 2014, she visited Mali as an ambassador of WaterAid Canada.[41]

On May 5, 2006, Trudeau announced she has bipolar disorder.[29] Since then, she advocated for reducing the social-stigma of mental illness—bipolar disorder in particular—with speaking engagements across North America.[33][42] In May 2019, she presented the one-woman-show Certain Woman of an Age in Chicago as part of the city's Wellness Week.[43] She is an honorary patron of the Canadian Mental Health Association.[44] In July 2019, she attended an opening ceremony of WE College in Narok County (Kenya) with former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell, Kenyan First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and Craig Kielburger, a co-founder of WE Charity organization.[45]

In 2010, she authored Changing My Mind, a book about her personal experience with bipolar disorder.[46]


In 2013, Trudeau received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Western Ontario in recognition of her work to combat mental illness.[47]


  • Trudeau, Margaret (1979), Beyond Reason, Grosset & Dunlap, ISBN 0-448-23037-2
  • Trudeau, Margaret (1982), Consequences, Bantam, ISBN 0-553-01712-8.
  • Trudeau, Margaret (2010), Changing My Mind, HarperCollins, ISBN 978-1-55468-538-7.
  • Trudeau, Margaret (2015), The Time of Your Life: Choosing a Vibrant, Joyful Future, HarperCollins, ISBN 978-1-443-43183-5.


While still married to Pierre Trudeau, Margaret Trudeau had a brief acting career, appearing in two Canadian-produced films:


  • Morning Magazine (1981-1983)
  • Margaret (1983-1984)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Christoper Curtis (October 22, 2012). "The other brother: Sacha, the 'apolitical' one, joins Justin Trudeau's campaign team". National Post.
  2. ^ Johnson, J. Keith; Public Archives of Canada (1968). The Canadian directory of Parliament, 1867-1967. Queen's Printer. p. 532.
  3. ^ "Item GR-1490.16.13.44 - Rose Edith Bernard, Roberts Creek". BC Archives. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  4. ^ "Passenger lists of the AORANGI arriving in Vancouver, British Columbia on 1906-06". Government of Canada. March 10, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
  5. ^ Johnston-Liik, Edith Mary (2006). MPs in Dublin: Companion to History of the Irish Parliament, 1692-1800. Ulster Historical Foundation. ISBN 9781903688601. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  6. ^ "The Bernards of Palace Anne". Bandon Cork Ancestors and Genealogy Heritage Roots Ireland. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  7. ^ C. A. Gibson-Hill (July 1953). "The Singapore Chronicle (1824-37)". Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 26 (1 (161)): 175–199. JSTOR 41502912.
  8. ^ "Stamford Raffles was not-above sneering at Farquhar's Malay wife and the children by her he acknowledged. 'The Maya Connexion', he termed them archly." Barley, Nigel (1991). The Duke of Puddle Dock: Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles. Great Britain: Viking. p. 242. ISBN 9780670836420.
  9. ^ Ford, D. (December 31, 2005). The World of Antoinette Clement: Colonial Mistress. Australia: University of Queensland.
  10. ^ Hedemann, Nancy Oakley (1994). A Scottish-Hawaiian story: the Purvis family in the Sandwich Islands. Book Crafters. ISBN 9780964402003. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  11. ^ a b Douglas-Home, Jessica (1996). Violet: The Life and Loves of Violet Gordon Woodhouse. Harvill Press. ISBN 9781860462696. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  12. ^ Cooper, Artemis (2011). Writing at the Kitchen Table: The Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David. Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780571279777. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  13. ^ Coyle, Jim (October 17, 2015). "Growing Up in the Public Eye". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c Griffin, Eugene (March 6, 1971). "Trudeau's Bride Takes All by Surprise". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune Press Services. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  16. ^ "Trudeaus on ski holiday at honeymoon residence". Ottawa Citizen. Canadian Press. February 4, 1972. Retrieved August 27, 2016. ...staying in their honeymoon residence – a condominium owned by Mrs. Trudeau's parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Sinclair of North Vancouver. The Trudeaus spent three days skiing Whistler last March after their surprise wedding
  17. ^ "A Prime Minister in love". Whistorical: Official Blog of the Whistler Museum. March 1, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2016. They surprised the media with their secret wedding in Vancouver, and, afterward, drove directly to Whistler for a three-day stay.
  18. ^ a b "Colleagues, family discuss secret Trudeau wedding". CBC Digital Archives. March 5, 1971. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  19. ^ "Trudeaus' Privacy Respected". The Ottawa Journal. April 13, 1971. p. 5. BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (UPI) - Prime Minister Trudeau and his wife left here Monday by chartered plane on a quick sidetrip to an unidentified nearby-island. They arrived here Thursday on a brief "second honeymoon," and reportedly stayed at a private residence on the island's posh west coast.
  20. ^ "Trudeau Meets Williams". The Ottawa Journal. April 16, 1971. p. 9. PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (Reuter) - Prime Minister Trudeau lunched privately-Thursday with Trinidad and Tobago's prime minister, Dr. Eric Williams. Trudeau flew in from Tobago, the sister island of Trinidad, where he was holidaying with his wife since Tuesday. Shortly after his luncheon engagement, Trudeau took a return plane to Tobago to rejoin his wife, Margaret. The Canadian high-commission said it was in not in a position to say when the prime minister and his wife would leave Tobago. "We know he has to be back in Ottawa on April 18," a commission spokesman said. The Trudeaus visited Barbados, and spent a day swimming off Bequia, a tiny island in the Grenadines, and nearby islets while they visited St. Vincent Monday.
  21. ^ Lederer, Edith M. (July 2, 1974). "Mrs. Trudeau Hits Campaign Trail". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  22. ^ Trudeau, Margaret (1980). Beyond Reason. New York, New York: Pocket Books. p. 193.
  23. ^ "Joyce Wieland, Reason over Passion, 1968". Art Canada Institute - Institut de l’art canadien. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  24. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 115. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.
  25. ^ Kaufman, Michael (2009). Pierre Trudeau Is Dead at 80; Dashing Fighter for Canada. online.
  26. ^ "Margaret Trudeau writes of affair with Jack Nicholson, cocaine". UPI. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  27. ^ a b Day, Elizabeth (November 13, 2011). "The Rolling Stones: that 50-year itch". The Guardian. London.
  28. ^ Richards, Keith (2010). Life. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 978-0-316-03438-8. OCLC 548642133.: Page 393 
  29. ^ a b c Hampson, Sarah (May 8, 2009). "Margaret Trudeau is solo, sane, 60 - and irrepressible as ever". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  30. ^ Kuczynski, Alex (May 17, 2016). "First Lady Wild Child: Margaret Trudeau". Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  31. ^ "Margaret Trudeau files for divorce". Ottawa Citizen. November 17, 1983. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  32. ^ "Margaret Trudeau remarries". The New York Times. Reuters. April 20, 1984. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  33. ^ a b Anzalone, Charles (Winter 2008). "Margaret Trudeau: Forgiveness. Gratitude. Wisdom". Bp. 3 (2): 22–26. Archived from the original (– Scholar search) on March 21, 2008.
  34. ^ "Justin Trudeau's mother, Margaret, was like the Princess Diana of Canada — with a happy ending - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. October 22, 2015. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
  35. ^ Cleroux, Richard (September 30, 2000). Ex-wife at Trudeau's deathbed. Irish Independent. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  36. ^ "Margaret Trudeau's last breakdown". Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  37. ^ Payle, Elizabeth (October 23, 2015). "Margaret Trudeau stayed out of campaign to avoid attack ads saying Justin 'needs his mummy'". National Post. Postmedia News. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  38. ^ "Margaret Trudeau in hospital after fire at Montreal apartment building". CBC News Montreal, April 28, 2020.
  39. ^ "Margaret Trudeau". HuffPost Canada. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  40. ^ Campbell, Meagan (April 21, 2017). "Margaret Trudeau's last job". Maclean's. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  41. ^ Payne, Elizabeth (October 12, 2014). "Margaret Trudeau makes her mark in Mali". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  42. ^ Harrold, Max (November 17, 2007). "A plea for more aid, less ignorance: Margaret Trudeau at mental health forum describes long struggle with bipolar disorder". The Gazette. p. A7.
  43. ^ Smith, Marie-Danielle (May 10, 2019). "'My life has been extreme': Margaret Trudeau speaks with candour in new one-woman show | National Post". National Post. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  44. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 16, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
  45. ^ Trudeau, Margaret; Campbell, Kim (July 19, 2019). "When barriers are lifted, women flourish. The growth in Kenya's communities prove it". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  46. ^ Coletta, Amanda (July 25, 2019). "Months before Canada's election, Justin Trudeau's colorful mother takes the stage to tell all". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  47. ^ "The University of Western Ontario : Honorary Degrees Awarded, 1881 - present" (PDF). Retrieved June 1, 2019.

External linksEdit